New Survey of Magazine Readers Offers Actionable Insights

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Over the last year, a lot more people are reading digital magazines and spending money to do it, according to Mequoda’s newly released American Magazine Reader Study & Handbook: Multiplatform Magazine Reader Habits and Digital Publishing Best Practices.

The number of U.S. adults reading digital magazines has increased 13.8% from 2015, with nearly 42% reporting having read one or more digital magazine issues in the last 30 days. That’s still not as high as the number reading print magazines, but the gap is lessening.

Almost a quarter of the 3,241 polled respondents reported spending money on digital magazine subscriptions and single copies in 2016, representing a total of $1.94 billion. This is up almost 10% from the totals last year.

Here are seven more highlights from the Mequoda study:

1. Print hanging in. While more than 2/3 of U.S. adults have read a print magazine in the last 30 days, and 51% have read at least two, the percent of people reading print remained flat at 69.76% in 2016. However, the number of average issues read in 30 days fell from 2.94 to 2.84 issues.

2. Digital spending soars. In 2015, 15% of U.S, adults reported spending a total of $1.27 billion per year on digital magazine subscriptions and single copies. In 2016, that number grew to 23.51% and $1.94 billion. This is a 52.7% increase in digital magazine spending year over year.

3. Make it easy to read. Readable text and scrollable text are the two most valued functions of digital readers. Other functions that are important include: links to website; embedded video; back issue archive; vertical swipe; copy and paste capability; content bookmarking; and companion print magazine.

4. Keep my print edition close and my digital edition closer. Almost 60% of U.S. adults most value their digital edition of a magazine compared to just 40% for print. The web edition takes up more than half of that 60% with iPad, iPhone, Kindle and Google Play each taking up between 4-8%.

5. Pursue multiplatform buyers. To no surprise, multiplatform consumers—which are up 32% from last year—have a higher household income than their print-only (probably older) and digital-only (probably younger) counterparts. Multiplatform consumers are 1.67 times more likely to spend $100 per year on digital magazines than digital-only consumers. They are also 1.64 times more likely to spend at least $1 per year on digital magazines than digital-only consumers. Getting young people to spend money on what they read continues to be an ongoing challenge.

6. Print performs better with women. In a bit of a surprise, women make up almost double of the number of consumers who are print-only. In digital readership, they are also ahead of men, but by a much smaller margin.

7. The digital generation is moving up the hierarchy. The average age of the digital-only consumer increased from 34 in 2015 to 41in 2016, representing a 20% increase. The average household income for digital-only consumers increased from $68K in 2015 to $79K in 2016.

“Multiplatform publishing, including native tablet editions and responsive web editions, is the future of magazine publishing,” Mequoda concluded. “Whether your revenue comes primarily from selling subscriptions to premium content or selling advertising and sponsorships, there are substantial and growing revenue streams to be developed. And one thing you can be certain of, if you don’t offer a compelling multiplatform media experience for your markets, your competitors will.”

An Introduction to Digital Magazine Best Practices follows the study findings. You can download that and the report for free here.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…